Kriener impresses ahead of Hawks' overseas trip
IOWA CITY — Minutes were hard to come by in Ryan Kriener's freshman season at the University of Iowa.
The former Spirit Lake hoops star battled through an illness that cost him most of the summer between his high school graduation and the start of the Hawkeyes' basketball season. Kriener battled back but found cracking the young and deep Iowa lineup a tough task.
Still, the 6-foot-9 forward made the most of his limited opportunities, scoring a career-high 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting at Northwestern on Jan. 15, and matching that career high less than two weeks later in an 85-72 home win over Ohio State.
Kriener averaged 3.1 points and 2.2 rebounds on the season. The Hawkeyes went 19-15 overall and 10-8 in the Big Ten.
Now, with a full year of Division 1 basketball under his belt, and following an impressive showing this summer in the Prime Time League — where he averaged 29.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game — Kriener is looking better than ever as the Hawks head across the pond to compete in a series of European exhibition games.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has noticed.
"Kriener, really, he's been impressive," McCaffery said during a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 2. "He's, from a competent standpoint, we always saw the complexity of his skillset. He made a move yesterday in practice it was like, wow, you know. He took it like hard right to left crossover, you know, fake this way, finish with his left hand over a guy. I mean, that is NBA stuff right there. You know, you can't coach that kind of play.
"So I'm just really happy for him. He's really worked, and he's in a good place mentally, I think."
McCaffery said he plans on a "fair dispersal of playing time" on the trip — save for the Hawks' appearance in Germany where Dom Uhl, a native German, will see extended playing time.
That should bode well for Kriener as he competes for playing time in Iowa's stacked front court that features fellow sophomores Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl — who combined for 40 starts last season— as well as a pair of 6-foot-11 true freshmen, Luke Garza and Jack Nunge.
"I think, as a coach, minutes for a deep team is probably harder than Xs and Os," Kriener said on Wednesday. "We've got the guys to go out and win games and play hard, but (deciding) who are the guys who are going to be on the floor is the hardest part."
Kriener, who led the 2015-16 Spirit Lake team to its first state tournament appearance since World War II, said the adjustment from high school hoops star to Division 1 teammate is maybe the hardest adjustment of all to make.
"Everyone wants to play here," Kriener said. "I think that's the hardest part with Division 1 sports. ... Everyone here at this level was the star in high school, and not everyone gets to be the star here. Putting your ego aside and being part of the team, that's always the hardest thing to learn. I think, once you throw your ego out the window, anything is possible as a team."
Kriener also said, following his impressive showing in the PTL this summer, he's feeling more confident heading into this season than he was entering his first year as a Hawkeye.
"Compared to this time last year, I'm a lot more confident," he said. "Last year, I was just trying to stay afloat, learn as much as I could and just stay with the pack. Now, I feel like I'm with the guys and I'm pulling people along with me."
McCaffery said that deciding who plays, how much they play and when they play will eventually work itself out.
"It's not going to be easy," he said. "But if they all deserve to play, they'll play."
The Hawkeyes will take on the German All-Star team on Tuesday Aug. 8. They will then play the Swiss All-Stars on Thursday, Aug. 10, the Milan All-Stars on Saturday, Aug. 12, and will wrap the four-game series with the Vicenza All-Stars on Monday, Aug. 14.